Women of the Italian Renaissance | MARGHERITA DI DOMENICO BANDINI (ca. 1360-1423)
Margherita di Domenico Bandini was sixteen when she married the forty-one year old Francesco Datini. She was a daughter of an elite but dispossessed Florentine family, living in exile since her father’s political execution when she was only three; he was a self-made man who had amassed a fortune trading in armour, salt, wine and cloth in the then-papal city of Avignon.
We know a good deal about Margherita and her marriage, owing to the hundreds of letters sent between her and her husband, 425 of which have been preserved. Francesco, you see, was kind of a micromanager; he spent a lot of time away from home, and though he often visited on Sundays, he still expected detailed reports from Margherita and would often send her long, nagging sets of instructions.
But Margherita could give as good as she got, and she wasn’t afraid of arguing back. On one occasion, when Francesco compared her housekeeping unfavourably with that of a friend’s wife, she shot back, “he keeps his wife as a woman, and not as an innkeeper’s wife! For it is fifteen blessed years since I first came here, and always I have lived as in an inn!” Margherita may have accepted that she lived in a world of men in which women held an inferior place, but she certainly didn’t have to like it, and she’d say so: ”As to your staying away, you can do as you please, being our master, which is a fine office, but should be used with discretion. I am fully disposed to live together, as God wills … and I am in the right, and you will not change it by shouting!”
The relationship was often strained — Margherita could be ill-tempered and impatient, Francesco nitpicking, irascible and unfaithful. The middle-aged Francesco was eager to father a legitimate heir and Margherita, to her frustration, was unable to give him one (she suffered debilitating monthly pains and it’s likely she had endometriosis, which affects fertility). Ultimately she would end up taking in and raising one of Francesco’s bastard children — he had at least three, one before his marriage and two after.
In one letter, she addresses Francesco’s infidelities directly: ”I believe no word you write. On every other matter I would take my oath that you would never tell a lie; but as to your keeping a w……, as to this, I would vow that you never spoke the truth.”
Francesco, trying to placate her, replied, “Never have you been so joyful … as you will be on my return,” adding in a conciliatory manner, “It has pleased God to soften my heart about many things which used to grieve you — and you were right, and I never said you were not.”
Margherita shot back, “As to your making peace with me, I am glad: for I was never at war with you. I know not what gift you will bring me; that I cannot understand, but when I get it I will thank you. You are not in the habit of bringing me too many gifts when you come home.”
Yet their letters show affection and mutual respect as well. Margherita was a capable woman and Francesco trusted her to aid him in his business activities. She started out sewing helmets (for which she took a wage, and firmly insisted on keeping the money herself rather than giving it into Francesco’s care) and eventually took on broader responsibilities in overseeing clerks, entertaining visitors, arranging wet-nurses for Francesco’s business associates and organising the collection of outstanding debts.
She generally dictated her messages to a scribe and prided herself on her ability to mentally compose letters, for which received praise from relatives and family friends. Indeed, she reacted quite indignantly when Francesco teasingly suggested that one of her letters was too well-composed for her to have done it on her own. In the mid-1390s she began to work on her reading and writing, attaining full literacy by her mid-30s.
Margherita didn’t change the world, nor did she particularly buck the status quo. But for all the disappointments life threw at her, she refused to be ground down or cowed into submission. In her own small ways, she strove to hold onto her self-respect and autonomy, and to prove herself capable both in matters of business and intellect.
Caterina van Hemessen 1528- 1587
Caterina van Hemessen was a Flemish Renaissance painter and one of the earliest woman painters who have extensive documented work. She is credited with being the first artist to paint a self portrait in front of an easel, as pictured above.
Caterina was taught to paint by her father. She became a very successful artist in her time, among her patrons was Queen Mary of Hungary. Her famous self portrait was made when Caterina was twenty years old. She became the teacher of three male students because of her good position with the guild of St. Luke.
Mary the Queen of Hungary greatly admired the artist and she became Caterina’s main patron. When she returned to Spain, she invited Caterina to join her. Caterina and her husband went to Spain, the Queen died two years later and left Caterina with a healthy pension. Caterina was mentioned in Guicciardini’s Description of the Low Countries as one of the living women artists. There are no paintings by Caterina after the date 1554, which has led many experts to believe she stopped painting when she married.
History Meme | [7/9] Kings & Queens → Elizabeth I of EnglandElizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called “The Virgin Queen”, “Gloriana” or “Good Queen Bess”, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. The daughter of Henry VIII, she was born a princess, but her mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed two and a half years after her birth, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. On his death in 1553, her half-brother, Edward VI, bequeathed the crown to Lady Jane Grey, cutting his two half-sisters, Elizabeth and the Catholic Mary, out of the succession in spite of statute law to the contrary. His will was set aside, Mary became queen, and Lady Jane Grey was executed. In 1558, Elizabeth succeeded her half-sister, during whose reign she had been imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.
Elizabeth’s reign is known as the Elizabethan era, famous above all for the flourishing of English drama, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and for the seafaring prowess of English adventurers such as Sir Francis Drake. Some historians are more reserved in their assessment. They depict Elizabeth as a short-tempered, sometimes indecisive ruler, who enjoyed more than her share of luck. Towards the end of her reign, a series of economic and military problems weakened her popularity. Elizabeth is acknowledged as a charismatic performer and a dogged survivor, in an age when government was ramshackle and limited and when monarchs in neighbouring countries faced internal problems that jeopardised their thrones. Such was the case with Elizabeth’s rival, Mary, Queen of Scots, whom she imprisoned in 1568 and eventually had executed in 1587. After the short reigns of Elizabeth’s half-siblings, her 44 years on the throne provided welcome stability for the kingdom and helped forge a sense of national identity.
30 Day Royal Challenge ♔ Day 3
Favourite Royal Relative [1/4]
Mary Boleyn was the sister of Queen Anne Boleyn. Mary was probably born at Blicking Hall, her family country’s seat, c. 1499-1500. Contrary to popular belief, Mary was the probable elder sister of Anne (b. c. 1501). They were the daughters of Thomas Boleyn, courtier and diplomat and later Earl of Wiltshire, and the former Lady Elizabeth Howard, a scion of the famous Duke of Norkfolks. They had one surviving brother, George (b. c. 1504), who later became a court politician like his father. Whilst it is believed Mary was the more physically attractive of the two sisters, it is clear the Boleyns thought the intelligent Anne the star of their children. However, Mary was certainly not dumb like popular myth has suggested, as she continued her studies right along Anne, instead of being pulled from them like a bad performing student of that time probably would be.
In 1524, Mary accompanied the King Henry VIII’s sister, Princess Mary Tudor, on her voyage to France as it’s future queen. Whilst most of Queen Mary’s English attendants were dismissed upon her marriage to Louis XII, Mary and Anne retained their positions as maids-of-honour, probably because they spoke French so well. Mary was a short-lived lover of King Francis I; her alleged sexual promiscuity with other men, however, is believe by some historians to be exaggerated to some extent.
In 1519, Anne stayed in France whilst Mary returned to England to become maid-of-honur to Katharine of Aragon, the queen consort of Henry VIII. On 4 February 1520, Mary married William Carey, a wealthy courtier. Mary eventually became a mistress of king Henry VIII, probably sometime in 1521. The affair was a private one, in contrast to Henry’s mistress Elizabeth Blount, who’s son Henry Fitzgerald was recognized by Henry as his own son. Mary’s children, Catherine (b. 1524) and Henry Carey (b. 1526) have been rumoured to be Henry’s, but it is believed the affair ended before the birth of Henry Carey. Some historians, such as Alison Weir, have suggested the possibility Catherine Carey could have been Henry’s daughter; but nonetheless, Henry never recognized either as such.
Anne returned to England in 1522. In popular culture, Anne and Mary have been alternately portrayed as close friend and bitter enemies. The truth was probably somewhere between the two extremes. Henry’s eyes soon turned on Anne, now lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine, but unlike Mary, Anne never gave herself up to him. Henry decided to marry Anne in 1527, which would later result in the Reformation of the Church. About a year after, William Carey died, leaving Mary with debt; as a result, Anne arranged for Mary’s son to receive formal education at a monastery, and had secured her sister an annual pension of 100 pounds.
Anne was crowned Queen in 1533. With her family and the world’s eyes all on Queen Anne, Mary was able to secretly marry William Stafford, a common soldier without wealth or pedigree. But they were discovered upon Mary’s pregnancy, and the two were banned from court.
After Anne’s execution, Mary and William lived out the rest of their lives in relative comfort at their home at Rochford Hall. When Thomas Boleyn died, his estate Hever went to the crown; curiously, when Henry sold the estate, he sent Mary part of the proceeds, despite the fact he didn’t have to. Mary died 19 July 1543.
Mary Queen of Scots Tomb Effigy
By William and Cornelius Cure, 1612
Mary was initially buried in Peterborough Cathedral, after her execution by Elizabeth I. Her son, James I, had her body moved to a grand tomb in Westminster Abbey in 1612. A marble tomb was made for her in the Lady Chapel, part of which was a marble effigy. The effigy includes a crowned Scottish lion at her feet. In a twist of irony, the two queens who hated each other and who never met in life, are situated opposite each other in their graves in the Abbey.
The wedding of Sancia d’Aragona (“the daughter of madama Trusia”) and Jofré Borgia (“the prince of Squillace”) illustrated by Ferraiolo. [x]
"But best and brightest, was Elisabetta Gonzaga herself, the peerless duchess…All who came into her presence were attuned to her gentle will and subject to her grave and virtuous majesty.
Lucrezia’s letter to pope Alexander, sent from Pesaro in June 1494, signed “your most devoted and unworthy”. From the Vatican’s Secret Archives. [x]